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Starbucks Increases Recycling; Backs Away from Reusable Mugs

Starbucks Coffee Company more than tripled the availability of in-store recycling for customers in 2011, according to the company’s Annual Global Responsibility Report. However, the company has greatly scaled back its target for reusable cups.

Starbucks served more than 34 million beverages in reusable cups in 2011. But that represents a mere 1.89 percent of all beverages – far short of the 25 percent goal set in 2008. The company is changing its target to 5 percent of beverages served in “personal tumblers” by 2015.

Moving away from in-store reusable cups or mugs makes it even more important for Starbucks to institute recyclable cups. The company says it is making progress toward its goal of developing comprehensive recycling solutions for paper and plastic cups by the end of 2012. 

Switching the focus from in-store reusable mugs to customer-owned mugs or tumblers also addresses the company’s water consumption issues, which are primarily driven by washing requirements. Although in-store water consumption has decreased more than 17% since 2008, water use increased 5% in 2011 over the year before. Starbucks says this was the result of a change in the process for rinsing blender pitchers.

The report also highlights where Starbucks is on track to meet several goals:

Energy Conservation: Starbucks says it is continuing to make progress against its goal for 25% energy reduction over 2008 levels by 2015, and has reached a 7.5% total decrease in 2011 over the 2008 baseline.

LEED Certified Stores: Starbucks is now building 75% of new company-owned stores to achieve the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification, working toward a goal of 100%.

Renewable Energy: In 2010, Starbucks set a new goal to make 100% of the electricity used in global company-owned stores renewable energy equivalent by 2015. In 2011 Starbucks purchased the equivalent of 50%.

Farmer Support: Starbucks provided $14.7 million to organizations that make loans to coffee farmers, working toward a goal of $20 million by 2015.

Community Service: Starbucks put a special focus on community service for its 40th anniversary celebration. In 2011, Starbucks more than doubled the number of hours from the year before with 442,000 hours contributed. Starbucks is working toward its goal of generating one million hours annually by 2015.

Coffee Purchasing: Increased purchases of coffee sourced under its Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices from 84% to 86% in 2011.

“While our progress is certainly significant thanks to the commitment of our partners and the communities we serve, we recognize there’s room for improvement,” said Ben Packard, Starbucks vice president of Global Responsibility. “By leveraging our scale for good, we can continue to make progress on major societal issues through innovation, customer engagement and policy leadership.”

Bart King is a PR consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications.

Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also Associate Editor of Sponsored Content for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_king [Read more about Bart King]

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